MARBURY, Md. — Gary Klein's catastrophe was Grant Goldbeck's godsend Saturday.
Goldbeck felt doomed as he made the 25-mile boat ride back to the Smallwood State Park weigh-in site Saturday. He'd started the Capital Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts in third place Thursday, caught only four bass and dropped to ninth place Friday and again Saturday had only four fish, weighing 9 pounds, 11 ounces, his worst total of the week.
"I thought, 'I've blown it again,'" Goldbeck said.
And this one was really going to hurt.
As a resident of nearby Gaithersburg, Md., the 36-year old pro has lots of family and friends at the daily weigh-ins. He considers the Potomac River his "home water." Plus, a year ago he'd done the same thing.
In the 2006 Capital Clash, Goldbeck was in contention for the Sunday top 12 cut until falling into 16th place on Saturday.
But Goldbeck caught a break this year. Fellow pro Gary Klein would have taken the 12th and final spot for Sunday, but clogged livewell screens caused four fish to go belly up before Klein could do anything to revive them.
The dead fish penalties are heavy on the Bassmaster Elite Series. First of all, you can't put a dead one back in the water and replace it with a live one. Secondly, the deductions from your total weight progress as follows: 1 fish - 4 ounces, 2 fish - 10 ounces, 3 fish - 18 ounces, 4-fish - 28 ounces, 5 fish - 40 ounces.
Klein's 28-ounce penalty dropped his Saturday weight to 9-11, exactly the same as Goldbeck's, and allowed Goldbeck to edge him by a pound and an ounce, 39-1 to 38-0, for 12th place.
Goldbeck got saved by the slime. Klein said he was fishing an area between two weed beds that was covered in a bright green algae slime Saturday, when unbeknownst to him, the slime clogged his livewell port screens, preventing fresh water from entering.
That slime also may have saved Goldbeck's Elite Series career. Only the top 85 in Angler of the Year point standings automatically qualify to return to the Elite Series the following year. Goldbeck was in 84th place coming into the tournament.
"This pretty much seals the deal for me qualifying," Goldbeck said Sunday morning, "so it's awesome."
Goldbeck felt like a man with the weight of the world off his shoulders as the sun rose Sunday.
"The pressure is off, and I'm on a body of water I'm familiar with," he said. "I'm going to have a good time and just go fishing today."